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"THE IN CROWD"
(2000) (Lori Heuring, Susan Ward) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama/Suspense: A young club worker finds that joining the inner circle of the young and wealthy patrons she serves has its share of rewards and dangerous problems.
PLOT:
Adrien Williams (LORI HEURING) is a young woman who's spent time in a psychiatric hospital for sexual obsession, but it's now time for her to be released. As such, her doctor, Henry Thompson (DANIEL HUGH KELLY), has arranged for her to get a relatively anonymous job at a posh seaside club where the upper class' adult kids gather for the summer to party and be among their own.

Shown the ropes by fellow coworker Joanne (KIM MURPHY), Adrien learns that the ravishing Brittany Foster (SUSAN WARD) runs a small, but elite clique of such patrons, and has done so ever since her equally beautiful sister left for an extended European vacation. As Adrien is quite attractive herself and reportedly bears a striking resemblance to Brittany's sister, the clique leader takes an interest in the young woman, as does Matt Curtis (MATTHEW SETTLE), the local tennis pro.

The quick friendship between Brittany and Adrien seemingly has an erotic tinge to it, something that fellow club patron Kelly (LAURIE FORTIER) seemingly senses and becomes jealous of. Other members of the clique, including Bobby (NATHAN BEXTON), Tom (ETHAN ERICKSON) and Morgan (KATHARINE TOWNE), aren't sure what to make of Adrien's sudden interest in the help.

As their friendship intensifies and Adrien tries to get on with rebuilding her life, she soon discovers that there are both advantages and dangerous pitfalls to being included in Brittany's elite group, particularly when she learns that there's more to Brittany's behavior than just friendly overtures.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
If there's one thing I hate about certain movies (okay, there are often many, but this one is a major pet peeve), it's when screenwriters and filmmakers are too lazy to deliver a well-crafted and self-explanatory film, and instead make one character explain or confess up to everything in a blab-laden conclusion.

Such confessions usually occur in murder mystery and "whodunit" type films where the villain is captured and fesses up or suddenly feels the need to torture their intended victim with such info before sending them to their grave with it. They usually do this while pursuing that victim, and thus believe that it's no big deal that they detailing their motives since no one else is around. Of course, little do they know that we, the audience, are there listening and shaking our heads in disbelief.

While some may appreciate that "Murder She Wrote" type, wrap-up conclusion, it's usually a clear sign of literary procrastination and/or sloppy writing. Such efforts often allow anything to happen as long as the scribe can explain it in that one pivotal scene, and consequently tie up all of the loose ends that were previously left hanging.

It's also stupid, illogical and preposterous - just like in so many James Bond films where the villains don't just kill 007, but instead give him a chance to escape due to their less than sure-fire, diabolical plan for the agent's demise - especially since it's doubtful this ever occurs in real life. Such confessional endings are simply used just to satiate filmmakers and/or studios who believe viewers supposedly need such closure and/or explanations of everything that occurred (and are often used with flashbacks in TV shows just to drill home the point).

What's even worse than all of that, however, is when such an explanation isn't needed - due to a simplistic story or complete viewer apathy - but still comes along anyway in a long and drawn out scene where we're evidently supposed to be frightened as the killer chases their intended victim, despite the fact that we obviously know they won't be successful.

While that's the idea behind the conclusion of "The In Crowd" - a mediocre and less than involving social class drama that slowly but not surprisingly turns into an even worse and poorly executed "thriller" - the fright doesn't manifest itself simply because we don't care. While the cast of young performers is attractive and shapely enough to hold our interest for a while, that alone can't overcome a limp and poorly developed plot that thinks it's delivering big surprises and intrigue, but definitely manages to do neither.

The underlying story of class differences and/or a class outsider who tries to enter or is suddenly accepted into an elite clique is certainly nothing new and has been explored in countless films such as the recent "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "The Skulls," as well as comedies such as "Heathers" and even "Clueless."

Since this clearly isn't earmarked to be an intentional comedy, and a drama stemming from the basic setup isn't that intriguing - particularly to the film's target audience of teen and early twenty-something viewers - it inevitably must become a thriller of some sort, no matter the filmmakers' early intentions to disguise it as a straight drama.

The problem is that neither director Mary Lambert (the two "Pet Sematary" films) nor the performers can do much of anything with the mediocre, unimaginative and by-the-numbers script delivered by Mark Gibson ("Lush") and Philip Halprin (making his feature film writing debut). Despite their intentions, the drama is flat and the suspense factor is incredibly low - due to the way in which Lambert steers this vehicle and the fact that the characters aren't much more than one-dimensional - and the film never builds nor maintains any momentum. Events simply unfold like limp, brown-colored lettuce at a summer social reception and in the end we simply don't care about anyone or anything that occurs here.

Susan Ward certainly has the look and appropriate behavior of a "bitchy" soap opera like socialite (which isn't surprising since she cut her thespian teeth on various TV soap operas), but she's left high and dry by the script that doesn't flesh out her character enough to make her interesting in any fashion.

The same holds true for Lori Heuring ("The Newton Boys," "8 Seconds") as the film's protagonist. While some explanations and exposition are attached to her character, we simply never know enough about her to care during the moments where she's in danger, let alone those involving the flat drama. The rest of the roles and performances pretty much blend together into a concoction that might look nice, but is otherwise bland.

The biggest mystery regarding the film is how it received a prime summer movie season slot, especially considering that it has no big name draws in front of or behind the camera, and more noticeable, simply isn't that interesting or well-made. Far more akin to what one would expect from a straight-to-video release, "The In Crowd" might have an attractive cast, but looks alone can't carry this mediocre drama/unsuccessful thriller hybrid that's clearly a dud. As such, the film rates as a 2 out of 10.




Reviewed July 19, 2000 / Posted July 20, 2000


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